Whales Take Over Oregon Coast Last Week in December
(Oregon Coast) - The yearly Winter Whale Week takes over the entire length of the Oregon coast during the last week of December, from December 26 to January 1, 2012. Dozens and dozens of volunteers will be posted at various high vantage points from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day that week, as some 18,000 gray whales wander past on their winter migrations (above: Whale photo courtesy Whale Watch Center).
This massive migration has been going on for a while, as the grays are heading south from their summer feeding water in the Bering and Chukchi seas near Alaska to their breeding and calving lagoons along the Baja coast of California.
Gray whales aren't all you'll spot, either. Another 1,100 or so will be Humpback whales.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which coordinates the winter and spring whale watch weeks, said it is advising people to bring binoculars for this whale spotting expedition, as most of the whales are traveling three to five miles away from shore.
On the north coast, Whale Watch Week spots are at Ilwaco, Washington and at Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. The Neahkahnie overlooks above Manzanita is the next closest vantage point.
Along the Three Capes Loop, the whale spotting spots are at Cape Meares, Cape Lookout (a 2.5 mile hike to the tip), both near Oceanside, and at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City.
There's a huge number of them on the central coast, including the Inn at Spanish Head lobby on the 10th floor in Lincoln City. Between Depoe Bay and Newport sit the largest amount of them. In Newport, there's Don Davis State Park, in the historic Nye Beach neighborhood, and Yaquina Bay Outstanding Natural Area. Close by are a few other official sites: Boiler Bay State Park, Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint, the state’s Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, Cape Foulweather and Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area (both about five minutes south of Newport), are a short drive away.
Near Yachats, there is Cape Perpetua and the Cook's Chasm Turnout. Sea Lion Caves, near Florence, is the next one if you're heading south.
On the southern Oregon coast, there is the Umpqua Lighthouse, Shore Acres State Park, Face Rock Wayside, Battle Rock in Port Orford, Harris Beach in Brookings, and one in Crescent City, California.
Newport has a few extras as well, with the Hatfield Marine Science Center offering storytelling, interpretive programs and other events during Whale Watch Week, many of which center around local whale populations.(http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/visitor/).
Special programs happen every day between 10 a.m. And 4 p.m. at the Hatfield, from December 26 – 31. At 1:30 p.m., there are marine mammal programs in the Hennings Auditorium featuring hands-on whale biofacts such as baleen and skulls. There are various ongoing marine mammal displays and exhibits, a marine mammal video in the auditorium, and you can keep up with local gray whale sightings by checking their posted lists. The Hatfield is open daily from 10 am – 4 pm for this special Whale Watch Week event.
Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center . 2030 S. Marine Science Drive. Newport, Oregon. 541-867-0226.
While the Whale Watch Week is the human spotlight on the watery beasties, the migrations continue well into January and sometimes early February. Then they disappear for a while until the spring migration in March.
Whale in Seaside - courtesy Seaside Aquarium
Whale fin, courtesy Whale Watch Center
Video of whales spouting at Depoe Bay
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